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Program Expansion

Fetal Death



Other complications can be caused by bacterial infections, unexplained asphyxia, isoimmunization, fetal bleeding, severe chorioamnionitis8 and sexually transmitted infections during pregnancy, common infections, illness, injuries and accidents. A greater risk of stillbirth has been found in:

  • Women more than 35 years of age
  • Women who have given birth to five or more children
  • Women who did not receive prenatal care
  • Hispanic and African American women

In many cases, a pregnancy that ends in stillbirth is medically uneventful and no signal of trouble manifests itself until delivery day when it is discovered on monitors that the baby no longer has a heartbeat.

Despite how often stillbirth occurs and how painful it can be for families, little research has been done on this type of pregnancy loss. Research on stillbirth is difficult to conduct for a variety of reasons including a family may decline an autopsy, the issuance of fetal birth certificates is not always required and the criteria for reporting stillbirths differ from State to State.

To encourage more stillbirth research, NICHD is supporting a new research initiative, Research on the Scope and Causes of Stillbirth in the United States. NICHD awarded $3 million to fund the Stillbirth Research Collaborative Network—five research centers across the country and one independent data center to collect and analyze statistics on stillbirths. Through this effort, NICHD will create a network of research sites whose sole focus will be on understanding stillbirth: its features, its causes and its effects on a woman’s uterus. Patients in this network will include women from a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Another stillbirth study is the Maternal Observations and Memories of Stillbirth (MOMS Study) study, a world-wide effort that has attracted mothers of stillborn babies and live babies from more than 27 countries. These volunteers are asked to fill out a 35- minute questionnaire about their birth experiences in an effort to provide international researchers with a database that helps them figure out what characterizes stillbirth pregnancies. To date, 4,000 women have enrolled in the study. Seventy-five percent are from the United States and 25 percent are from 27 other countries.